Mexico will take on the United States in Nashville on Tuesday (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET) in a friendly that will showcase a crop of fresh faces on both sides. Correspondents Tom Marshall, Cesar Hernandez and Eric Gomez preview the match.
Start of something special for Mexico?
Against Brazil last week, the U.S. featured a starting squad with an average age of 23 years and 117 days. Mexico faced Uruguay in Houston with a roster middling out at an average age of 24. The focus is clearly on the future for both national teams, with the stark difference between the teams in their immediate past: El Tri registered a World Cup of big highs and lows in Russia, while the Americans watched the entire tournament from home.
But, these two teams have way more in common than you might think. There is, of course, the fact neither has a permanent national team manager yet. Dave Sarachan and Ricardo Ferretti will face off with the knowledge that neither will be roaming the sidelines in Qatar should both their countries make it to the tournament four years from now. Both have exciting young players whom fans are pinning their hopes on sooner rather than later, and the two fan bases are bidding adieu to a generation of guys who offered a hearty share of thrills and spills on the international stage.
If you squint and look at the glass half-full, the match in Nashville feels like the start of something special for both teams if everything goes right. It's actually quite easy to picture emerging stars Diego Lainez and Tim Weah in their respective World Cup groups four years down the road. Then again, it's also not hard to picture both federations messing up coaching searches and putting the future of their young core of players in peril, with memories of 2014 (for Mexico) and 2018 (for the United States) still fresh.
Though Ricardo Ferretti might have called this match a molero from the comfort of his perch at Tigres just a few weeks ago, there's actually quite a bit to be excited about despite this being -- on the surface -- a meaningless friendly. -- Eric Gomez
Mexico's Gonzalez to face former U.S. youth teammates
Mexico and the United States haven't played since June 2017, but the rivalry doesn't disappear when the two teams leave the field. The battle between the two federations when it comes to scouting, tracking and convincing younger dual-nationals to suit up for one or the other national team is real. Neither side definitively has the upper hand, but perhaps one of the most significant switches in the history of the rivalry took place last January, when former U.S. youth international Jonathan Gonzalez filed to play with El Tri.
On Tuesday, the 19-year-old midfielder will take to the field in Mexico green and go up against former U.S. youth national team teammates such as Tyler Adams for the first time. It'll be an emblematic moment for Gonzalez, not just because it denied the United States a potential future holding midfielder, but because of what Mexico has gained.
Gonzalez has kept his starting spot at Monterrey in Liga MX this Apertura, and with Orbelin Pineda missing out through injury, the young midfielder is well-positioned to start against the United States in a team that represents the next generation of Mexican players.
With interim manager Ferretti forecasting a number of changes following the 4-1 defeat last Friday to Uruguay, the likes of Hugo Gonzalez (or Gibran Lajud), Jose Abella, Gerardo Arteaga, Edson Alvarez, Oswaldo Alanis, Victor Guzman, Erick Aguirre and Angel Zaldivar could all get starts against the Stars and Stripes. -- Tom Marshall
Young goalkeepers should get a chance to impress
Mexico fans should keep a close eye on their side's two young goalkeepers, Gibran Lajud and Hugo Gonzalez. Following the early international break exit of Guillermo Ochoa, the aforementioned duo will have an invaluable opportunity to make a name for themselves with the national team.
Of course, that all depends on how many minutes each one is given. Although a split of 45 minutes each would be expected, interim manager Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti could end up using just one of the two options. Regardless, an appearance for either Lajud or Gonzalez will be a fascinating one during the current transition period to the new World Cup cycle.
Gonzalez, on paper, is likely next in line as the starting goalkeeper in Mexico's subsequent generation of players. With a long list of Liga MX starts under his belt over the past few seasons, the 28-year-old is easily the favorite to earn a place within Mexico's XI against their longtime rivals.
All that said, Lajud shouldn't be overlooked. The 24-year-old is a star-in-the-making and has been impressive at Club Tijuana for several months now. Once the 2022 World Cup rolls around, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if the goalkeeper is the leading man between the sticks.
Whether it be Gonzalez or Lajud, Tuesday's match will provide an enticing insight and preview into what the next generation of Mexico's shot-stoppers can provide. -- Cesar Hernandez